It's hard to overstate just how important the Galaxy Buds were to the success of the Galaxy S10 line last year. Part of it was timing — Samsung finally nailed the fundamentals after two previous attempts with the IconX series, but the Galaxy Buds debuted at a time when true wireless earbuds were becoming a necessary addition to any company's accessory lineup. You can blame Apple's AirPods for that.
But say what you will about AirPods and the effect it's had on the headphone market overall, you can't dismiss the Galaxy Buds' fundamental value; at $130, they were cheaper than most of the competition but sounded considerably better, opting for an isolating in-ear fit that ensured deeper bass and richer mids that, when combined with Samsung's passthrough mode, let outside noise in without needing to remove the buds entirely.
And while there were a few Bluetooth- and control-related bugs with the Galaxy Buds at launch, the issues were largely ironed out and consumers were left with a very strong addition to the category.
Which is why it's not surprising that, a year later, Samsung isn't opting to change much about its first successful true wireless earbud offering.
The Galaxy Buds+ are physically identical to their predecessors, though each bud is ever-so-slightly heavier. That extra weight holds a battery over 30% larger, increasing the total battery to 11 hours per listen from six hours on the originals. That solves one major problem, but certainly not the biggest.
Where the Galaxy Buds+ promise to make the biggest leap over their predecessor is in the sound department. Samsung is employing two distinct drivers this time, adding much-needed low-end depth and a smoother mid-range to the sound signature. The Galaxy Wearable Android app can adjust the earbuds' equalization accordingly, but these should a lot better out of the gate.
I had an opportunity to try the new Galaxy Buds+ at a Samsung launch event, and while they sounded great, it wasn't clear to what degree they sounded better than the original Galaxy Buds, or whether they stack up nicely against my current favorite-sounding TWEs, the Jabra Elite 75t. One feature Samsung purposefully omitted from these, likely to save battery, was active noise canceling. That's a feature the AirPods Pro have introduced to the mainstream and they're becoming more common in lower-cost TWE segment, too.
I also wasn't able to verify that Samsung improved another area where the originals were heavily criticized: call quality. Samsung does promise better call quality with the Galaxy Buds+, and even included a second external microphone to do a better job capturing voices and cutting out additional background noise.
Samsung's also partnering with Spotify to make it easier to launch and control the music service directly on the buds themselves. I'm not sure how useful this will be beyond adding additional hooks to things that Bixby or Google Assistant could already do, but I'm looking forward to digging deeper in the next few weeks.
I do enjoy the new colors, especially this new blue hue that you can see in the images above. I'm a bit worried that the glossy finish on all the colors, especially the black one, will get smudged and gross after a few uses, but we'll see. I'm also not happy that Samsung didn't improve the IPX2 water resistance rating from the originals, either: you can splash these with water, but don't take it for granted they will survive a downpour or being dropped in the sink.
At $150, the Galaxy Buds+ are a $20 premium over the Galaxy Buds and based on my initial impressions, they definitely seem worth the added cash. Whether Samsung fixed the awkward gesture controls remains to be seen, too, but the one thing I was impressed with, and hope to report back on in my full review, is how Samsung was able to add a bunch of interesting features and generous benefits to a form factor that's virtually identical to what came before.
New buds on the block
Samsung improves its true wireless earbuds
Samsung didn't feel it needed to change too much about the Galaxy Buds from 2019 to 2020, and that's fine — they were already pretty good. This year, the Galaxy Buds+ have twice the battery life, improved sound and more microphones.
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Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central.